- A new inter-agency fire safety working group in New York has been tasked with overseeing the safety of energy storage systems in the state after multiple fires at storage facilities in recent months, Gov. Kathy Hochul, D, announced last week.
- State officials will be inspecting energy storage sites and the working group will be focused on preventing fires as well as ensuring emergency responders have the training needed to tackle any fires at storage projects, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
- “Energy storage technologies are essential to an affordable, reliable, and modern electric grid in New York. This working group has an opportunity to elevate rigorous, evidence-based national codes and standards that are currently used across the industry to guide and promote safe installation and operation of battery energy storage facilities,” Noah Roberts, director of energy storage at the American Clean Power Association, said in an email.
Last week, four battery storage trailers at a Convergent Energy solar farm caught fire, necessitating intervention from local fire departments. Convergent Energy and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation will conduct investigations into the incident once temperatures come down, WWNY reported. Similar incidents have also occurred at other storage facilities in New York this summer.
“Following multiple fire safety incidents across New York, I've directed State agencies to immediately form the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group to mobilize the personnel and resources necessary to keep New Yorkers safe,” Hochul said in a statement, adding that the group will work with first responders and local leaders to “identify best practices, address potential risks to public safety, and ensure energy storage sites across New York are safe and effective.”
The new working group will be led by state officials including from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Public Service. These officials will investigate the recent fires at energy storage facilities in the state and conduct a safety review that will include an analysis of the emergency response, as well as recommendations for energy storage facilities.
Their findings and recommendations will be shared with the New York City Fire Department, National Fire Protection Association and New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code Council, as well as other stakeholders, according to the governor’s office.
New York isn’t the only state taking a closer look at the safety of energy storage facilities. An explosion in 2019 at an Arizona Public Service battery facility injured four firefighters.
Energy storage industry members can utilize a “robust suite of national codes and standards” to guide the safe operation of battery energy storage facilities, ACP’s Roberts said. The codes and standards are similar to those that exist for other grid infrastructure projects.
“The Inter-Agency Working Group has the opportunity to assess how these codes and standards can be elevated and applied in New York to ensure uniform, evidence-based practices are utilized to promote safety,” he added.
In a report commissioned by the California Public Utilities Commission released this May, consulting firm Lumen Energy Strategy noted that the state officials also need to address safety gaps, such as ensuring “robust and proactive” communication among stakeholders regarding safety risks and how to address them.
California could need to build nearly 2 GW of storage every year on average to meet its 2045 climate goals, the report noted, and “can expect at least a handful of safety events across the storage fleet over the next ten years.”
“California therefore faces an unprecedented situation to address these safety gaps quickly and for a current and future battery storage fleet that is larger than anywhere else in the country,” the report said.